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New Manchester agency seeks ‘unreasonable’ clients

Sergeant Walnuts launches this week

The curiously-named Sergeant Walnuts, a new creative agency based in Manchester, opens its doors this week, with the aim of “building brands that command attention.”

Sergeant Walnuts was founded by Gary Toal and Richard Attwater, who formed a close friendship during a combined 14 years in senior roles at the highly-regarded Manchester outfit LOVE.

Their new venture brings to life a shared ambition to do things a little differently, with an open-arms approach to welcoming ‘unreasonable clients’.

Toal said: “George Bernard Shaw spoke of the power of unreasonable people. Those who demand difference and expect more; those who refuse to accept the ordinary. He said all human progress depends on unreasonable people. That makes unreasonable people our kind of people.”

Co-founder Attwater added: “We’re seeking clients to work with who share our view that the last thing a brand should be is vanilla or forgettable. If a brand fails to get noticed, or remembered, then it’s in big trouble. There’s some great work out there, but equally, we see a lot of stuff that feels very ‘samey’. Work that follows category conventions, and blends in. People think that’s a ’safe’ way to go about things, but it’s not – it’s incredibly risky. If you end up doing similar things to your competitors, your work may even be misattributed to one of them. It’s basic, but fundamental.”

Each armed with around two decades of experience working in major agencies in different parts of the world, Toal and Attwater have created Sergeant Walnuts to build brands and create communications that are distinctly interesting and difficult to ignore.

The pair insist that they are providing not a “new” agency model, just a better one. Sergeant Walnuts offers clients a collective of specialists who can do “just about anything.” From deep strategic thinking, brand creation and brand positioning, through to attention-commanding creative ideas and activations – all with an unwavering focus on helping clients stand their brand apart.

Attwater continued: “We’re much leaner and more flexible than most big agencies. We’ve got a central permanent team, coupled with a vast network of hugely talented friends, spanning all sorts of specialisms. That means we can tap into them as and when required, but we can do so without the huge overheads associated with the bigger agencies. We’re better suited to the needs of many brands who are looking for value without having to compromise on quality.”

As for the unusual name, that came from the twisted mind of surreal comic Bob Mortimer, who periodically supplements his income by ‘selling’ cat names on Twitter. The Sergeant Walnuts moniker struck the agency’s founders, who duly paid Mortimer the £8 selling price and named not a cat, but an agency.

Attwater said: “As agencies, we spend our time telling clients about the importance of being distinctive, of being both memorable and interesting. We believe a lot of agencies fail that test, in terms of how they show up, and how they talk about who they are. And it all starts with what they name themselves. Many of them opt for one-word names that attempt to hint at how they’re different – often quite serious sounding names, and it’s obvious they only found it after going down a thesaurus wormhole.”

Toal added: “You see so many agencies trying to be purposefully abstract with some weird combination of words, with the most-used mechanic being ‘colour + animal’. But that in itself has become normalised. I challenge anyone to pick a colour and an animal and google it next to the word ‘agency’. I’ll bet good money it already exists. We wanted something we loved, that sounded fun, and doesn’t sound much like an agency. And crucially, it needed to stand out. But on top of that, we really just wanted a name that made us both smile. And Sergeant Walnuts definitely made us smile. It still does.”


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